It’s no secret that the GameBoy Mini is one of the most anticipated and wished-for handheld devices by portable gaming fans the world over. Nintendo have been pretty hot with their mini console series thus far; the NES and SNES Mini consoles were a great success, with the latter finally bringing some of the best SNES games on the planet to new audiences. Rumours surrounding the arrival of the N64 Mini and the GameCube Mini are coming thick and fast, especially with the arrival of a modded Nintendo 64 Handheld, so what better time to talk about a scaled-down version of the handheld that started it all. (Featured image credit @haihaisb on Instagram)
Back in 1989 when Gunpei Yokoi released the GameBoy on the world, we knew we had something special in our hands. It seemed like the pinnacle of gaming; surely it couldn’t get any better than this? If you’re an avid Retro Dodo reader, then I don’t need to go into the history of the handheld from here on out (but for the purposes of my ever-growing word count, I’m going to do anyway). From the best Gameboy Color games and the best GameBoy Advance games, through to the best WonderSwan games on Yunpei’s second and less well-known portable gamer, the handheld has constantly evolved and still is changing today. Better graphics and a backlit screen aren’t enough to satisfy gamers anymore; they want all the games in one place, a streamlined console to go with their latest iPhone, and online connectivity to be able to play with their mates that they met on their ‘garp yaaaar’ (that’s gap year to everyone else).
So when the GameBoy Mini does finally drop into our laps, it’s a complete mystery as to what shape it might take. I’m not suggesting that Nintendo have managed to genetically modify a Ditto to save on production costs, but with every evolution of our favourite handheld coming under the category of ‘a classic’, the choice of which style the gaming giants chose for their GameBoy Mini is a question that is still up in the air and will undoubtedly divide gamers.
Let’s break this down a little before our brains explode. The ‘classic mini’ series has so far started with early consoles releases and moved in chronological order. We’ve had the SEGA Mega Drive Mini, which means that it shouldn’t be too long for the fabled Dreamcast Mini drops. Following this rule, will Nintendo begin with the original Grey DMG as their GameBoy Mini console? We’ve seen Retropie Handhelds such as the GameBoy 1UP showing that consoles of that size and shape are still appealing to nostalgic gamers, and an original GameBoy with a super-sharp screen and built-in digital games would be the ultimate combination of ‘Past VS Present’, but will that be good enough to satisfy hardcore Nintendoids?
Ask anyone what their favourite GameBoy is, and the answer will always be different. Brandon (Retro Dodo Creator) loves the GameBoy Color with an unhealthy passion that borders on weird (it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up like one of those people that married a piece of the Berlin wall), whereas my favourite evolution is the original GameBoy Advance. That’s the console I’d like to see when the GameBoy Mini drops. It was the first horizontal handheld Nintendo had made since the Game and Watch days and it just looked super-cool when you slid it out of your pocket – the stuff of legends!
What Would The GameBoy Mini Need To Have?
No worm light for a start! Any new GameBoy Mini console is going to need a bright, backlit screen and nice digital audio playback like the Nintendo Switch. It’s what people have come to expect from the best retro handhelds these days, so they would be fools not to join in with the trend. As to which of the best GameBoy games they would pre-install into the device, that’s another long conversation for another time. Will they choose a newer model of the GameBoy and showcase some of the best games of the entire GB family, or will they stick to the original DMG and just bring back favourites like Pokemon Red and Super Mario Land in colourful HD?
Another thing this console will need to have is the ability to charge it up via USB. I’m not dissing the original GameBoy when I say this because I loved that thing, but in an age where people are carrying around battery banks in their pockets and searching for the nearest plug socket like an addict scratching an itch, we don’t want to be carrying a horde of AA batteries around with us anymore. It’s bad for the environment and it’s incredibly costly now your parents aren’t buying them for you!
Will the GameBoy Mini allow you to get online?
With Games like Mario Kart coming to our phones and most Android devices being able to play ROMs of our favourite classic games, it’s plausible that the GameBoy Mini might follow in the footsteps of consoles like the CreoQode Lyra and allow you to get online to watch videos and stream music. Personally, I think that if Nintendo do go down the WiFi connectivity route, then it should just be for downloading new titles, trading Pokemon without that annoying cable, and for thrashing your mates at your favourite multiplayer titles.
So Why Haven’t We Seen One Yet?
Well, the issue is that you already have in quite a few different forms, though they haven’t had Nintendo stamps on. A quick search on the Retro Dodo website for a GameBoy Mini will show you different consoles that we’ve covered like Amazon’s $50 mini handheld and other fake consoles that replicate our favourite GameBoy styles from yesteryear. One only needs to get their hands on an ODROID GO or an ODROID GO Advance to be able to play some of the best retro games of all time on a DMG or Macro style shell, and if you squint at the Retroflag GPI Case or Retro Game 300, then you might think that it’s a DMG in disguise! There’s the ClockworkPi Gameshell, various GameBoy Color adaptations (told you he was obsessed), and if you want to skip the handheld out altogether, then you can grab the Retron Jr and play your favourite GB carts up on the TV!
There’s also another very good reason why we haven’t seen a GameBoy Mini on the shelves yet, and that’s because Analogue recently released their ‘Pocket’ handheld. If you haven’t come across the Analogue Pocket yet, then it’s essentially everything that I have said the GameBoy Mini should be throughout this article, albeit with the ability to play pre-installed games. The Pocket is sleek, has a nice screen that plays crisp graphics, the perfect button set-up, looks about as thin as a smartphone (in a case), and can be charged up via USB-C. With a product like that on the market, it’s no wonder Nintendo are holding back a little bit with any potential releases.
The Analogue Pocket makes games like Pokemon Yellow look crisp and bright and boosts titles like Tetris to new heights. This handheld device can play almost 3’000 games from the GameBoy, GBC, and GBA. It doesn’t use any emulation, so your games are going to work exactly as Nintendo intended them, with no frame drop or lag in sight. You can even get an adapter to play some of the best SEBA Game Gear games and the best Neo Geo games too!
Out of all of the articles I have written on mini consoles, the GameBoy Mini is perhaps the hardest one to predict. It’s a topic that will undoubtedly provoke lots of thoughts and questions (why do you think we chose it), and it could easily go so many different ways. Nintendo’s war against ROMs (which you can read about in our ‘purely scientific’ How To Install ROMs article) means that it’s unlikely we’ll see an emulation-heavy handheld any time soon. And with the company constantly playing up the benefits of their online subscription system to play past games, it looks more likely that we will see a handheld with a select choice of games and further downloadable content.
Like any handheld, however, the retro gaming community won’t take long to hack any GameBoy Mini and turn it into a device that can play all of the best SEGA CD games as well as titles from our favourite plumber and green-hatted Kokiri warrior. Perhaps this is another reason why Nintendo are keeping any word of the GameBoy Mini’s development under wraps; maybe they’re waiting till they can create an unhackable console or a handheld that gives you an electric shock if you try to open it up. I imagine the community would just borrow Hagrid’s dragonhide gloves and still give it a try – we’re a relentless bunch!
There are so many questions that are still unanswered, so we want to hear your thoughts on this interesting subject! Send a stamped addressed comment or DM to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (we might be retro, but we don’t mess about with P.O boxes anymore!).